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Match Of The Week: Kazuchika Okada Vs. Marty Scurll

All In provided a number of brilliant matches, but one really exceeded expectations...

One of the most anticipated weeks of wrestling in recent memory has been and gone, with All In heralded as a resounding success.

The show provided a huge amount of moments, from Cody finally winning the NWA Worlds Heavyweight Championship, to Joey Ryan's return from the dead (accompanied by a fleet of penis-druids, naturally).

However, the biggest success of All In - apart from the general sense of energy and excitement - was perhaps its abundance of quality wrestling. The most anticipated matches met expectations, such as Kenny Omega vs. Pentagon Jr., and bouts that threatened to disappoint largely over-delivered.

Chief among these was Marty Scurll vs. Kazuchika Okada. Yes, both are fantastic professional wrestlers, something very few people doubt. But the build to the match (centred around the smaller Marty having no chance against a true heavyweight) seemed to indicate that it would be a spotty, semi-humorous affair.

We instead got a potential Match of the Night, one of Marty's finest ever performances, and a triumph of suspense and drama.

(It also may have gone way beyond its allotted time and caused the main event to be cut short - but we'll get to that later.)

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Background: Like many matches on All In, the build to this bout was shown chiefly on Being The Elite. It was entertaining, sure, but truth be told it didn't inspire a great deal of confidence.

The match-up between Okada and Scurll was largely played for laughs, with numerous wrestlers telling The Villain that he had no chance against his larger foe. Things culminated with a chance meeting in a corridor, in which Okada signalled the number '205' to Marty. The implication was, of course, that Marty would be better suited to WWE's 205 Live cruiserweight division.

The pairing was one of the more curious of All In, a match that threatened to upset NJPW's traditional weight divisions if Scurll won. Obviously, he had no chance; there was no way Okada would go down to The Villain. But imagine if he did.

All In found both men at strange periods in their career. Okada was coming off the back of a record-breaking IWGP Heavyweight Championship reign, the end of which had sent him into a manic, balloon-toting spiral. Scurll had enjoyed a stellar match with old rival Will Ospreay earlier in the year, but had largely become Bullet Club's 'character guy', with far less focus placed upon his undeniable in-ring ability.

Although few were in any doubt that this match would be an entertaining affair, it would have been a stretch to expect the pair to go all-out and deliver a near five-star masterclass.

As it turns out, that's exactly what we got.

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The Match: Things begin with a split crowd, as the two popular stars engage in a (partially humorous) face-off in the middle of the ring. The height difference is abundantly clear, but Scurll is unfazed and almost scores an early inside cradle.

Marty shows off his speed with some nimble escapes, and already seems to be working at double his usual pace. Given the eventual length of the match, that's pretty damn impressive. He gets ambitious and tries for a couple of shoulder blocks, only to be dumped unceremoniously on his back by the former IWGP Heavyweight Champion.

Those fearing too great an emphasis on comedy needn't worry, as things get serious almost immediately. Scurll takes control of the early stages, surprising Okada with an apron Superkick and a Suicide Dive.

It doesn't take The Rainmaker long to work his way back into things, slowing the pace and grounding his opponent - but Marty valiantly fights to his feet and hits a Backstabber. He runs through his repertoire of fake-out kicks and Enziguris, but rushes into an attempt at the Graduation which Okada reverses with relative ease.

Again the Japanese heavyweight threatens to take control, but Scurll nails an amazing Brainbuster - which Okada sells with appropriate disbelief. Unfortunately for The Villain, his obsession with proving his heavyweight credentials again costs him, as he finds a Piledriver attempt reversed into a Neckbreaker.

The moves get bigger and bigger, as the pair trade Superplexes, Powerbombs, and one of Okada's astonishing Shotgun Dropkicks. With great difficulty - putting over Marty as a slippery customer - Okada finally hits his Tombstone and sets up for The Rainmaker. Showing hubris, he pauses to taunt, delivering the '205' hand gesture to a big pop. The fans get even louder, however, when Marty springs back to life, grabbing Okada's fingers and breaking them to a massive reaction.

Okada manages to hit his signature Dropkick, but Scurll's on a roll now, countering a Rainmaker attempt into the Chickenwing. It's a dramatic spot, but nobody truly believes that a wrestler of Okada's stature will submit, as he fights out of two submissions and seems to be regaining control.

It's at this moment that highly-respected Japanese referee Tiger Hattori is bumped, setting the scene for some shenanigans. Thankfully, there are no match-ruining interferences; just a spot of appropriate villainy. Scurll retrieves his umbrella, and uses it to block The Rainmaker - opening it to reveal the All In logo in a nice moment.

He blasts Okada with the umbrella, disposes of it as Hattori recovers, and flattens his opponent with a Rainmaker of his own! What follows is perhaps the near fall of 2018, as for a split second, everybody in the building buys Marty Scurll scoring a pinfall victory over Kazuchika Okada.

It's not to be, however, as Okada kicks out in the nick of time, before countering another Chickenwing attempt into a Rainmaker. Scurll bravely beckons him on, demanding further action, but his resistance is put to an end after two final, decisive Rainmakers.

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Aftermath: Despite the bout's brilliance, a lot of controversy has been generated in the aftermath. As you've probably heard by now, the main event six-man tag had to be cut very short, sending the show off the air on a shockingly abrupt note.

Much of the blame has been lumped on Scurll, with rumours floating around that he and Okada went hugely over their allotted time-slot. He has since claimed that various matches went long, and that their match wasn't the sole cause.

Regardless, Marty has served everybody a timely reminder that he can go in the ring - something that was gradually being forgotten amidst the Hot Topic deals, singalongs, and cries of "woop woop!".

He's set to take part in a four-man tournament for Hiromu Takahashi's vacated IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship and could scoop the title for the second time. First, he'll have to overcome Ospreay in California and the winner of KUSHIDA and BUSHI. It's a tournament without a clear front-runner, but seeing a rejuvenated Villain hoist the gold wouldn't be the biggest surprise.

Okada remains a crossroads. The loss to Omega sent him into a strange, perfectly-played breakdown, one which probably cost him the 2018 G1 Climax - but All In saw an altogether more confident Rainmaker.

His next big match is against Hiroshi Tanahashi, a chance to steal into the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 13. It would be a huge, groundbreaking result, as no G1 winner has lost the WK briefcase since the title shot was introduced - but if anyone deserves to break the mould, it's New Japan's ace.

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Jack G. King

Written by Jack G. King

Head of News at Cultaholic.com | [email protected]